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North Harrison tops Scottsburg, improves to 2-0

North Harrison tops Scottsburg, improves to 2-0
North Harrison tops Scottsburg, improves to 2-0
North Harrison senior running back Colby Whittaker runs up field early in the second quarter for a gain during the Cougars’ home game Friday against Scottsburg. North Harrison won 36-19. Next up for the Cougars is the Big Cat Classic on Friday at Corydon Central. Photo by Ross Schulz
Ross Schulz, Contributing Writer

The North Harrison Cougars moved to 2-0 both overall and in the Mid-Southern Conference on a rainy Friday night in Ramsey with a 36-19 win over Scottsburg.

The home opener also served as senior night to ensure the players (along with senior band members and cheerleaders) had the chance to be honored with an uncertain season ahead because of COVID-19.

The Cougars started hot and finished strong with a few issues in between. Coach Mark Williamson said Scottsburg was to blame for what turned out to be a dog fight for a good portion of the game.

“That’s the best team he’s had,” said Williamson, speaking of sixth-year coach Kyle Mullins. “They keep fighting. He’s coaching that over there, and that’s good. They are getting better with him. My hat is off to Scottsburg. They have some size and some athletes.”

North Harrison shot off to a 21-0 lead, and looked to expand on that lead heading into halftime. Facing a fourth and 5 from the 13-yard line, quarterback Colt Beach rolled out and looked to pass for the first time all night. Scottsburg defender Jordy Smith came up with an interception and took it all the way back to midfield before Colten Hickman brought him down.

With only 31 seconds left, the Warriors took to the skies to march down inside the redzone. After a defensive penalty gave Scottsburg one last play with 0:00 on the clock, quarterback Kent Paris found Dalton Daniels in the end zone for a score.

“We’re not good enough to do that at the end of the half,” Williamson said. “I’m OK with not scoring, but we can’t give up that score. They executed and we didn’t, and now we’re in a dog fight. Those touchdowns right before half are huge, and normally we’re the team that does it.”

After three-and-outs from both offenses coming out of the half, Scottsburg got moving again as Traven Crawford scored from 16 yards out to fire up the visiting fans, which were found on the south side of the field, on the “hill” where many North Harrison fans usually watch games from. (As part of the approved COVID-19-adjusted plan for hosted games, home fans were to use the north side of the field and visiting teams the south).

“They had the momentum, their crowd was behind them, we were flat,” Williamson said.

After a failed fourth-down conversion for North Harrison on the ensuing possession, the defense came up big with stops on the outside by the sophomore duo of Sawyer Wetzel and Kaleb Kellems. Colby Whittaker finished off the stop with an interception at the Cougars’ 10-yard line. The fourth quarter, much like nearly the entire first half, was all North Harrison.

It took a conversion on fourth and 4 by bruising running back Aaron Nevil to continue a drive that ended with a Whittaker touchdown to gain some breathing room with seven minutes to play in the fourth quarter.

“That was our trademark kind of drive, eat the clock,” Williamson said. “That’s what really got the momentum back on our side.”

Defensive lineman Colten Cahill recovered a fumble on the next Scottsburg possession to finally put away the scrappy Warriors.

The Cougars gained control in the first half by using a one-two-three punch of a running game from Nevil, who played the role of thunder to fellow senior Whittaker’s lightning. Beach was the third prong of the attack, mainly running directly up the middle.

“Colby is a change-of-pace guy, but he will run between the tackles,” his coach said.

North Harrison took the opening possession and used up nearly six minutes of clock on the drive that included a fourth and 1 conversion by Nevil. Nevil then took it in from 21 yards for a score, and he extended the lead to 8-0 by punching in the two-point conversion.

On Scottsburg’s first offensive attempt, big defensive plays by Noah Marrs and Wetzel set the Warriors back, with a fourth and long from around midfield. Kellems came up big with an interception and a nice return.

After another ground attack drive brought the Cougars near the goal line, Beach took it in with a QB sneak to extend the lead to 14-0. The extra-point attempt was blocked.

Scottsburg then had a successful drive going, moving into Cougars’ territory before it stalled. Cougars’ defensive back Matt Nealy knocked a fourth-down pass away from a Scottsburg receiver to give the ball back to North Harrison.

The third and final touchdown of the first half for North Harrison came from Whittaker from 31 yards out using his speed to get to the edge and outside.

“We knew Scottsburg was going to be a tough game,” Whittaker said. “We knew they were going to come out physical and come out hard, so we came out hard in the first quarter. We slacked a little in the second quarter, let them kind of get back in it, but we came back in the second half and hit them hard and sealed the game.”

Beach credited the offensive line for the strong rushing attack on the night.

“The O-line is doing a great job up front pushing them around,” he said.

Nevil finished with 221 yards on 42 carries with two touchdowns.

“He’s our bowling ball of the team,” Whittaker, who ran for 105 yards on 10 carries with two TDs, said of Nevil.

Beach finished with 37 yards. Nick Gunter also had a run of six yards.

Next up for the Cougars will be rival Corydon Central in the Big Cat Classic Friday night, to be played in Corydon this season.

The Panthers opened their season Friday night by scoring 41 unanswered points after an early 6-0 deficit and routing host Paoli 41-6.

Sophomore quarterback Tyler Fessel ran for three touchdowns and threw for another to lead Corydon.

The Cougars have won six straight in the rivalry, including an overtime thriller a season ago.

“They’ve got to fight,” Williamson said of his team. “High school football is a tough game; you’ve got to play for 48 minutes.”

“It’s just another game we’re going to come out and do our best and compete with what we’ve got,” Whittaker said.

North Harrison                     8   13     0   15 – 36

Scottsburg                            0     7     6     6 – 19

North Harrison-Aaron Nevil, 21, run (Nevil run); North Harrison-Colt Beach, 3, run (Matthew Nealy kick blocked); North Harrison-Colby Whittaker, 32, run (Nealy kick); Scottsburg-Dalton Daniels, 10, pass from Kent Paris (Keyton Hollan kick); Scottsburg-Traven Crawford, 16, run (attempt failed); North Harrison-Whittaker, 3, run (Nevil run); North Harrison-Nevil, 9, run (Nealy kick); Scottsburg-Daniels, 9, pass from Paris (no attempt).